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When Parents Move In

Many of us baby boomers are concerned about the kids moving back home until they get that elusive job.  But there is another scenario with the family home, and that is when parents may need to move in.  That is a much more complex situation and here are some considerations.

This usually comes about when a widowed parent starts to become frail, or cannot drive, or has lost the support group due to death of friends or inability to travel.  The cost of nursing homes or assisted living facilities in Connecticut are among the highest in the nation.  Living with a child can be beneficial both financially and emotionally.  But it can also be a giant adjustment for everyone.

A primary consideration is financial.  Who is going to pay what?  Even with a separate in-law apartment, the utilities, taxes, insurance, food, and other costs are rarely separate.  The solution here is to share expenses on some fair apportionment of the costs.  Each month mom or dad can contribute a fair amount toward the living expenses and expenses of the house.  If they were living in an apartment they would be paying rent and utilities, so it’s allowable to share living expenses.

Another aspect of this may be actual cost of remodeling or adding on an in-law apartment to provide adequate living space and privacy.  The Connecticut Department of Social Services recognizes this and allows the elder person to pay for such changes to accommodate their needs.  Obviously the expenditure should be reasonable.  Remodeling may include walk in bathtub or shower, grab bars in the bathroom, widening doors for a wheelchair or walker, installing ramps, replacing doorknobs with levers, or maybe putting in a separate bathroom.  The goal is livability, safety and enough privacy for all.

If the house is big enough to accommodate everyone and changes are not needed, there is another provision in the Medicaid (Title 19) law that allows a parent to buy a life use in the child’s house, and if the parent lives there for a least one year the purchase will not be considered an uncompensated transfer to the child, and will not result in a penalty.  Connecticut has a formula to calculate the life use value, based on age.

Although the primary consideration may be financial, the primary effect is personal.  It is close living.  Will the child’s spouse feel the same way about “grandma” moving in.  Depending on “grandma’s” physical and mental ability, the arrangement can be anywhere from heartwarming to heart wrenching.  For example, if the parent has a fair degree of dementia, and asks the same question over and over all day, that can wear on the most serene soul.  Or if mom is a wanderer or needs help taking medications, it may be necessary to hire outside help.

That is where the VA Aid & Attendance program or any of the three levels of the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders comes in.  They can provide for the extra care needed to keep the elder person out of an institution, when the living arrangement and care the child is giving are not enough.  For example, if the daughter  who is the main caregiver works, and mom potentially wanders, the extra help could provide for a companion for the hours the daughter is at work.

In summary, thinking through the physical, social and family dynamic issues ahead of time increases the chances that instead of a stomach churning disaster, everyone will have an enriched life.



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